Despite support from the governor, frontrunner Donald Trump placed second to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the Lincoln County Republican caucus on Saturday, March 5.
Cruz collected 325 votes to 270 for Trump, 92 for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 50 for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and nine for neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
A total of 746 votes were cast at Wiscasset Middle High School – more than double the turnout Lincoln County Republican Committee Chairman Stuart Smith expected and more than four times the turnout for the last presidential vote in 2012.
“We planned for a good day to be about 300,” Smith said in an email.
About 160 people voted in the 2012 caucus, according to Smith.
“We shattered our normal turnout numbers,” he said.
The results and the turnout were similar across the state, as the Texas senator collected 45.9 percent of the vote to 32.6 percent for Trump, 12.2 percent for Kasich, and 8 percent for Florida’s Rubio, according to the Bangor Daily News, and turnout more than tripled 2012 numbers.
Cruz claims 12 of the state’s 23 delegates to the national convention, Trump nine, and Kasich two.
LePage took the stage at the middle high school to make his case for Trump.
Many of the governor’s supporters “are disappointed in me for supporting Donald Trump instead of Cruz,” LePage said to the crowd.
LePage said he initially supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “because I thought they had the skill set necessary to be the president,” but decided to back Trump after Christie and Bush ended their campaigns.
LePage said he is not supporting Cruz or Rubio because only three senators have moved directly to the presidency.
“It happened with Warren Harding – didn’t turn out so good if you remember the Teapot Dome,” LePage said, a reference to a bribery scandal in the Harding administration.
The other two senators to move directly to the White House were John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.
LePage said he met Kennedy as a child and liked and respected him. “He died prematurely, therefore we don’t know what he would have done, but he had some problems in foreign affairs in the short time he was there,” LePage said.
As for Obama: “It’s been horrible,” LePage said.
“He has virtually destroyed our military,” LePage said. “He has destroyed our reputation around the world. Companies are leaving in droves to go to other countries because he doesn’t respect business.”
As he did at a town hall-style meeting in Waldoboro on March 1, LePage compared himself to Trump.
“In 2010, I came out to become governor because I was not an everyday politician,” LePage said. “I was a businessman who knew what it took to change the finances of this state around.”
He supports Trump “because we have $19 trillion” in national debt “and we need someone who understands finance, we need someone who understands that you can’t put your children and your grandchildren in debt,” he said.
“Donald Trump has three things, I think, that are vital to become a president,” LePage said. “He’s been very, very successful. He’s a really tough negotiator. He’s a little bit brash, like I am, but this is the most important thing: he can make decisions, and he does it every day.”
“The other most important thing about Donald Trump is this: he’s not afraid of the media, and I am not either,” LePage said to applause.
LePage said Cruz and Rubio are “not ready for the big time.”
“They need a little bit more experience,” he said. “They haven’t even been in the Senate for one full term.”
LePage said he would have supported Kasich, “but if you see the lineup this year, every single governor has been thrown out because they’re considered to be the establishment.”
LePage did not spare the Democratic presidential candidates, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders “wants to give everything away for free,” LePage said. “We already owe $19 trillion. That makes no sense to me.”
Clinton has “one foot in jail and one trying to get in the White House, and I’ll tell you, I don’t know what’s going to come first, the election or her indictment,” LePage said. The FBI is investigating Clinton’s use of a private computer server while secretary of state, including the possible mishandling of sensitive material.
State Rep. Jeff Hanley, R-Pittston, spoke in favor of Cruz. Hanley represents Alna, Pittston, Randolph, and Wiscasset.
In an interview after his speech, Hanley said he likes Cruz’s “constitutional foundation and his moral foundation.”
“And he is anti-establishment,” Hanley said. “The Republican establishment needs to be shaken up, and I think he’s the guy to do it.”
Cruz also “has a proper understanding of the immigration problem, which is really an invasion problem,” Hanley said.
Besides a Trump campaign volunteer from Massachusetts, there were no other speakers for presidential candidates.
State Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, delivered a short speech. Sanderson represents Chelsea, Jefferson, part of Nobleboro, and Whitefield. She is seeking a fourth consecutive two-year term in the House.
Maine Senate District 13 candidate Dana Dow also spoke. The Waldoboro businessman was in the Senate from 2004-2008 and the House from 2010-2012.
“I conduct myself based on biblical principles,” Dow said. “That doesn’t mean I go around preaching the gospel everywhere I go. I don’t do that. We live in a secular government, but I base my decisions on biblical principles.
“It’s been said the golden rule is ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you,’ but that’s not the biblical principle. The biblical principle is that you treat others better than you expect them to treat you. That’s the way I acted when I was in the Legislature before and that’s the way I will continue to work.”